|Birth: ||Jun. 19, 1946|
|Death: ||Aug. 20, 1972|
Khanh Hoa, Vietnam
Pilot back home for final goodbye
by AAron Corvin; Tacoma News Times
(August 21, 2005)
A long life doesn't necessarily equal a full one, and maybe Roderick "Rog" Barnum Lester knew it.
Certainly, he loved like it. Adventure? When he was 8 years old, he and a friend tried to hike more than a dozen miles from Morton to Elbe. Ambition? In his 20s, he flew fighter jets-low, high, and always fast.
Rules and regulations were for "informational purposes only for Rog", said Greg Wood, a Navy buddy. "If it was fast or in cars, or on motorcycles or jets, you could count on Rog being involved, if not leading the way".
On Saturday, Wood traveled to Rog Lester's hometown of Morton, Lewis County, joining more than 200 friends and family to honor and remember him, and to end a 33-year mystery.
On August 20, 1972, Rog, a 26-year-old Navy pilot flying an A-6 Intruder in the Vietnam War, crashed after taking anti-aircraft fire on an armed reconnaissance mission.
He was listed as missing in action. For decades, Lester's family, including his mother, Esther, and his brother Reg, numerous childhood and college friends, and the town wondered: What happened to Rog?
In 1994, the answer began to materialize, A remote mountainside crash site was identified, and over the next 10 years a task force depolyed by the Department of Defense excavated it.
Eventually, the task force recovered property belonging to Lester. The recovery of his dog tag, parts of a survival radio and a microphone proved he was in the aircraft when it went down.
The mystery ended. The family, the friends, and the town had an answer they could embrace.
On Saturday, 33 years later, they gathered for a funeral, with full military honors, to put Rog to rest.
Inside the gymnasium of Morton Elementary School, people filled metal chairs and climbed bleachers to listen to story after story of a precocious boy who grew into a smart, talented man.
Mike Emerson, a childhood friend, recalled Rog's mischievousness. One day, Emmerson said, Rog decided they should grab his dad's "big old rifle" and shoot it.
Neither wanted to pull the trigger, Emmerson said, so they fastened it ot a fence rail and looped a string around the trigger.
Suffice it to say, the fence fell down.
"I don't remember who pulled the string, but it was probably Rog", Emerson said.
Barry Bede, who grew up as Rog's best friend in Morton, recalled adventures as teenagers.
Rog's dad owned a Buick dealership, Bede said, and when the new Buick Skylark arrived, Rog told Bede: "We've got to go our and try this".
They burned rubber in the middle of the road. "Rog had no fear," Dede said.
At 1 p.m., the stories were over. The Rev. Bill Shepherd urged the town to let Rog inspire them. Shed your Cynicism, Shepherd told them, don't give up, and do the things you love to do.
"When you fly, fly fast, fly low." he said. "When you run, run fast. Study hard. Aim high in life."
Outside the gym, people went to their cars. They drove along main Street to the cemetery.
They gathered around a plot where the sun had baked the grass brown.
They prayed for Rog.
Three rounds of gunfire cracked the air like a whip.
The bugler played taps. Four EA-6B Prowlers roared overhead in the Missing Man Formation.
Then it was time to put roses on Rog's silver, flag-draped casket.
It was time to say goodbye.
E. R. Lester (1910 - 2000)
Esther Alzina Barnum Lester (1908 - 2006)
Reginald Edmon Lester (1943 - 2008)*
Roderick Barnum Lester (1946 - 1972)
Morton City Cemetery
Created by: Flintstone
Record added: Apr 25, 2006
Find A Grave Memorial# 14075146
Added: Feb. 23, 2013
Thank you for your great sacrifice in preserving our country's freedoms. I will honor you in the only way that I can . . . by remembering you always. May you rest in peace.|
Charles A. Lewis
Added: Nov. 25, 2012
I am humbled that you gave your life while serving and protecting our nation. Thank you.|
Added: Oct. 11, 2012
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